This week I am doing a backlist review of the Charlotte Holmes books from Brittany Cavallaro. I am stoked to get my hands on the fourth and final book in the series, A Question of Holmes, which was released on March 5th. One of my dear friends is getting me a signed copy, so until she gets a chance to send it to me, I will satisfy myself with reliving these books through reviews. The synopsis for A Question of Holmes is at the very bottom of the page for you to check out!
A Study in Charlotte
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Rating: 5 Stars
Here’s the deal: I strongly dislike contemporary novels, especially YA contemporaries. But a Sherlock Holmes inspired YA contemporary? I couldn’t buy this book fast enough. The story is about the descendants of the original Holmes and Watson (yes, they are real in this universe), Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes. Jamie transfers to the same Connecticut private school that Charlotte attends and from there the games is afoot. Yes, I am also disappointed in myself for going there.
Jamie and Charlotte very obviously come together to solve a murder, one that they are being framed for. The whole mystery behind the murder is wild to say the very least. This book is far darker than I was expecting. Not only is there the whole murder thing, but drug addiction and rape. While these are very difficult topics, I felt they were handled respectfully. I am far from being a teen these days, but I think it’s important have YA stories that deal with harder topics.
I really enjoyed the way that Jamie and Charlotte were similar to the original Watson and Holmes (or at least what I can remember of the original stories. My brain also remembers the TV/movie version too well so I’m sure I’m leaning more towards those interpretations), but in a perfectly modern way. Charlotte is highly intelligent and though she can be abrasive at times, I felt she does care. From past traumas and her harsh upbringing (which you learn more about in later books), it is just hard for her to care for people in traditional ways. And then there is Jamie. The boy is kind of a doof sometimes, but he’s a teenage boy who has been brought up with stories of all the great Holmes and Watson’s before him. We can hardly blame him for diving head first into a not so healthy and fairly co-dependent friendship with Charlotte.
A Study in Charlotte is so vastly different from any YA contemporary that I’ve ever read, and I am so happy I picked it up. If you like Holmes/Watson, wildly dramatic murder mysteries, layers of secrets and betrayals, and high levels of snark, A Study of Charlotte is for you.
The Last of August
Release Date: February 14, 2017
Rating: 3 stars
The tag line for this one is “Watson and Holmes: A match made in disaster.” This describes the relationship of these two characters so perfectly I cannot even. I thought A Study in Charlotte was twisty and turny, but The Last of August dials the chaos up to 11.
I loved that the story is based in England and Berlin this time around, so we get a nice scenery change. I loved the art forgery aspect to the case. We get more background on all the families, most importantly the Moriartys. The three families are endlessly fascinating and dysfunctional.
While I still enjoyed this one, I had two problems: the ending and the Charlotte/Jamie dynamic. The ending was chaotic, and I found myself not really following what was going on. It feels fast paced, but then you suddenly realize you are lost in the plot, but you are reading so fast you feel as though you can’t stop and go back. I felt like I needed a flow chart of how everything came together in that ending.
Then we have Charlotte/Jamie. Look, I love a good angsty romance, but this book took it to the point of me not enjoying it. Its been a while since I’ve read the book, but I just remember having an overwhelming sense that Jamie wanted to fix Charlotte and the PTSD she suffers from her rape. And this is NOT OKAY. The almost love triangle that goes on is not fun either. August Moriarty is probably one of the more sympathetic characters in this whole book and Jamie constantly needing him to be the villain was annoying.
While I still mostly enjoyed this when I read it, looking back I see a lot more problems with it. I originally rated this a 4 star but I’m going to knock it down to 3.
The Case for Jamie
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Rating: 4 stars
Where The Last of August was kind of a mess for me at times, The Case for Jamie really drew me back in. None of the characters miraculously turn into better people, but the writing and plotting was better and I think having Charlotte and Jamie apart for a while was a good idea. Getting more of Charlotte’s POV really helped too. I still kinda want to smack Jamie through the whole book, but he is a teenage boy so that doesn’t really surprise me. Looking back on this book and the series as a whole, I feel like Charlotte and Jamie are my original trash children (current trash kids are Jude and Carden). Like, I love them, but also, they are so terrible. But the author isn’t going for a perfect, healthy relationship with these two. It’s hard because, I’m reading this as an adult, so I know that relationships like the one between Charlotte and Jamie are not great, but I can revel in the drama because the relationships in this book aren’t shaping my views on relationships. I like that the author shows the ugly sides of the relationship and how Charlotte and Jamie work through it. No person and no relationship is ever perfect, so I don’t want them written that way, but toxic relationships shouldn’t be glamorized to teens. I think these books walk that line, though sometimes they are a little too close to the edge. And I’m going to hop off this slippery slope rant I’ve sudden found myself in.
At the end of the day, The Case for Jamie is a vast improvement on the second book. Each book in this series is like pulling back the layers on these families and seeing the flawed humans they are. But like I’ve said, no one is perfect. I really feel like the characters in these books are all too human in a way we try to pretend we aren’t. I cannot wait to read the final book in the series, A Question of Holmes.
A Question of Holmes
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Synopsis: Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson think they’re finally in the clear. They’ve left Sherringford School—and the Moriartys—behind for a pre-college summer program at Oxford University. A chance to start from scratch and explore dating for the first time, while exploring a new city with all the freedom their program provides. But when they arrive, Charlotte is immediately drawn into a new case: a series of accidents have been befalling the members of the community theater troupe in Oxford, and now, on the eve of their production of Hamlet, they’re starting all over again. What once seemed like a comedy of errors is now a race to prevent the next tragedy—before Charlotte or Jamie is the next victim.
Before I get into the meat of this backlist review, I want to get something off my chest: Six of Crows is the ONLY reason I ever finished reading the Grisha Trilogy. I read Shadow and Bone a while back and it never did anything for me and I decided the trilogy wasn’t for me. Then Six of Crows came out and based on the synopsis I KNEW I had to read it. I loved Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom so much that I decided to finish the Grisha Trilogy. This is my long way of saying, you don’t HAVE to read the Grisha trilogy before Six of Crows. In fact, I am stalwart in my convictions that Six of Crows should be the introduction to Leigh Bardugo. Yes, there are spoilers for the Grisha Trilogy in SoC/CK, but…well, it’s complicated and I can’t explain without spoiling things and honestly the “spoilers” didn’t ruin anything for me when I finally finished the Grisha trilogy. I guess what I’m trying to get to in this long rambling opener is that Six of Crows is a god damned triumph and I hate to think of others like me who almost missed out on the beauty of Bardugo’s writing because the Grisha Trilogy didn’t work for them. Okay, getting off my soap box and starting what I came here to do: review Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Read: May 13 – May 20, 2016
Rating: 5 stars
Where do I even start with this one? I love this book. Every single word was beautifully woven into a dark heist story that consistently surprised me with its character depth and whiplash plot twists. Considering my “meh” feelings on the first Bardugo book I read, Shadow and Bone, I went into this one with trepidation. However, Bardugo’s writing had evolved into so much more than it was for the Grisha Trilogy and I found myself devouring this book at every possible moment (Please see my favorite Instagram photo ever because Bardugo called me a goof for reading Six of Crows while in a Starbucks drive through line). Some complain that the pacing is off in this book and I completely disagree. Yes, the background stories of characters are slower, but damn are they important and interesting and they add such depth. I feel like I know the characters in Six of Crows better than any other book characters I have ever read.
When people ask for a YA fantasy recommendation, this is the book I give them. This is a book I wish I had written. This book, as stated earlier, is a god damned triumph.
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Read: September 27 – October 4, 2016
Rating: 5 stars
Dear Crooked Kingdom, I’d like my heart back, thank you very much.
I didn’t think it was possible for me to love my Dregs any more than I already did, but Crooked Kingdom stormed through and not only stole my heart but broke it into a thousand icy shards. Bardugo dives even deeper into her characters, giving us some truly heart wrenching backstories and introducing us to new characters that bring more complexity to Ketterdam and the Dregs. I cannot express enough how much I love the introduction of Colm (I’m only giving first name to avoid any potential spoilers). Straight up, my favorite character.
At the end of the day, this was such a good ending to this duology (potential trilogy if what Bardugo’s has said is true). It gave me satisfying, and sometimes emotionally traumatic, endings for each of the characters. I often have issues with endings to series but this one worked for me in so many ways.
So there we have it. My short little love letters to Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. If you want a book that is full of snark, high stakes, beautifully built worlds, broken and brilliant characters, and some of the most wonderfully woven words ever written, then I highly recommend you pick up Six of Crows immediately.
Before I jump into this backlist review, I have to apologize for how many times I’ll be using the word “brutal”. Because, damn these books are brutal and Pierce Brown is cruel and capricious and I love him.
Red Rising (Read December 28, 2015 – January 7, 2016)
This is the kind of book that’ll remind people that the science fiction genre is not to be trifled with. For lack of a better term, this book will fuck you up. Brown’s visceral prose digs into you and brutally burrows into your soul. Every sentence is crafted with such care, you can’t help but fall in love with the terrible world Brown has created.
We follow Darrow as he goes from a naive Red (the lowest, or slave, class in the Society) to a vengeful infiltrator of the Golds (the highest class in the Society) and their Institute, where the next generation of Golds compete for the power and prestige that will carry them through their lives in the Society. Darrow must navigate the brutal world of the Institute, gaining the trust of those he intends to destroy and keeping himself alive through the twisted war games the Golds.
Nothing prepared me for this book. I went in with the thought that it’d be a little like Hunger Games but on Mars. And while it had some similar elements (kids killing kids for a messed up society), it was so much more. The world building rivals that of Brandon Sanderson and the cast ranges from delightfully sarcastic to disturbingly psychotic.
Red Rising sets up what promises to be a wonderful and brutal trilogy. Once you finish this one you’ll want to jump straight into the next book.
Golden Son (Read January 8 – 13, 2016)
Golden Son is the second book in the Red Rising trilogy, but the brutality and intensity does not lessen as time goes on. Darrow finds himself deep into the Society and begins to start his work of dismantling it from within.
Brown’s writing style continues to be beautiful and brutal. He brings us deeper into the Society and introduces us to a host of new characters. Brown is so good at building solid characters without drowning you in their backstory. The politics are very heavy in this book, but they are interesting so it never bothered me.
But really, what Golden Son boils down to is the ending. And while I will not spoil anything that happens, I will say that it is one of the most beautiful and painfully crafted endings I have ever read.
Morning Star (Read February 12 – 24, 2016)
So, I could have sworn that I had to wait like a year after reading Golden Son before Morning Star was published. Maybe it just felt that way considering the whiplash insanity of the ending of Golden Son. I’ll be brief with this review because I have endeavored to not spoil anything throughout these reviews.
Brown finishes his epic trilogy with many of the things we expect from him: brutality, betrayal, insane plot twists, enough snark to sink a ship, and some damn beautiful writing. Everything in this book drips with intensity, sometimes to the point where you feel as though you are drowning. Some people have complained about the pacing in this series, but honestly, sometimes you need a break. I’m not sure I’d survive non-stop Pierce Brown chaos.
Even though Brown eventually continued the series with Iron Gold, Morning Star is as close to a perfect ending as I could have asked for. The Red Rising Trilogy is still one of my favorite Sci-Fi trilogies to this day.
Hello all! I’m back with another set of backlist reviews. This time around I look at The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. This trilogy was one of my surprise reads of 2018. I constantly avoided these books, honestly, because I hated the bright orange cover of Illuminae. Well, you know the saying about judging book covers and ooooh boy did my aversion to orange kick me in the teeth because The Illuminae Files are STELLAR!
Illuminae | Read March 1 -3, 2018 | 5 Stars
HOLY HECK I LOVED THIS BOOK! I didn’t know to expect going into this read, but a fast paced, hilarious, and INTENSELY CREEPY science fiction story that was told in an incredible and unique format was not it.
To say this book exceeded my expectations would be a vast understatement. The story stars Kady Grant, a spectacularly snarky computer hacker, Ezra Miller, her very pretty and very recent ex-boyfriend, and AIDAN, who I won’t say much about because I’m not sure if it’d count as spoilers but hot damn they are the best character. There is inaudible profanity, snark, slow burn creepiness, snark, space battles, snark, dire situations with dire consequences, and oh, did I mention the SNARK? This little quick review doesn’t even begin to describe all the awesome held within the obscenely orange cover of this book. If you like science fiction, or want to dip a toe into this genre pool, I 1000% recommend this book. Honestly, it is probably my favorite book read in 2018.
Gemina | Read March 7 – 16, 2018 | 4.5 stars
Oh boy, was I full of trepidation going into this one. I’m never a fan when a story suddenly shifts to the perspectives of whole new characters for large chunks of the story. What if these new characters didn’t fill the snarky, murder-y desires of my heart? But my fears were for naught BECAUSE HOLY HECK I LOVED THIS BOOK! Honestly, I have but one issue with this book and I’ll save it for the very end of this review because it is a spoiler (don’t worry, I’ll put up a warning before it hits). In Gemina, we get a new main trio to love, along with a cast of awesome and/or villainous characters. Hanna is the rich, spoiled, but well-trained daughter of Jump Station Heimdall’s captain. Nik is the attractive bad boy from the station’s crime family who supplies Hanna with drugs and snark. And Ella is Nik’s cousin who put’s Kady’s wit and hacking skills to shame. All three of them are forced to work together as a BeiTech strike team attack the jump station. But there is another sinister and creepy plot going on throughout the jump station and basically everything crescendos into glorious chaos. This book is another intense and snarky space adventure told in the same amazing format as the previous book. And now we come to the…
Literally the ONLY reason I knock this book down to a 4.5 is because of the author’s fall back on killing off a main character in an emotionally traumatic way and then bringing them right back. I LOATHE when this becomes a repeat thing. And while it was handled in a different way than in Illuminae, it still irritated me a bit.
Obsidio | Read March 17 – 24, 2018 | 4 stars
I struggled with the rating of this one. Honestly, as I write this I am still wavering if I should kick it up to 4.5. Because this was a fantastic end to this trilogy. But I can’t explain much without being completely spoilery. I’ll dance around it for a bit and see if I can figure out how to say it. This book brings us yet another new set characters and I think these are the ones that deeply explore the emotional trauma of war/invasion the most. The scenes on the occupied surface of Kerenza are intense. It reminded me a lot of Season 3 of Battlestar Galactic. But even with how emotionally impactful the concept of the Kerenza scenes were, I felt like I had very little left to give the new characters. I think they were still well written and the Kerenza plot was good, but I spent most of the time waiting for scenes with the original crew. The plot is tense, and the action is superb. There are twists and turns and some damn fine writing. Certain things that are revealed in this book kinda blew my mind a little bit. As an ending goes, it was wholly satisfying.
SPOILERS BELOW FOR WHY I KNOCKED THIS ONE DOWN TO 4 STAR
The authors pulled the “dead but not dead” fake out AGAIN! I was so damn angry with this. So angry. It’s lazy and I saw it coming a mile away. It makes me even angrier considering how often Jay Kristoff harps on other writers for lazy writing (his Instagram stories are amusing AF). And now that I’m typing this out I am fully okay with a 4 star. Either kill your darlings or don’t. You shouldn’t have it both ways. Especially more than once. Ugh.
All in all, I am angry at myself for staying away from these books for so long (*shakes fist at orange cover of Illuminae*). While I had one consistent issue with these books, I still consider them one of my new favorite Sci Fi series. I’d give the trilogy as a whole 4.5 stars. Kaufman and Kristoff have a new Sci Fi series that they are working on and HOLY HECK I CANNOT WAIT!
Thanks for joining me for another Backlist post! I’m not sure which ones I’ll be doing next. I must go stare at my shelves and see what jumps out at me.
Many moons ago, when I was first starting to gain traction in the #bookstagram community I was asked by Chooseco Publishing to review their upcoming book, Weregirl: Typhon. I got the book and then realized that it was third in a series. I managed to snag a copy of the first book in a used bookstore and then I got a copy of the second book through NetGalley. This is all to tell you that 2 out of the 3 reviews below are from books that were provided to me by the publisher. All opinions are my own and are in no way impacted by the publisher providing me a copy of the book.
Weregirl | Read August 31 – September 3, 2018 | 3 Stars (Goodreads)
Weregirl is not your average werewolf story. Instead of pack mentality and alpha wolves, we are given a shadowy bio-tech corporation and a newly turned werewolf who must figure out her new powers on her own. While I appreciated that the main character, Nessa, wasn’t a typical YA MC, many of the side characters were not fleshed out nearly enough and fell flat for me. There was also quite a bit of focus on Nessa’s high school struggles. While I tend to read a lot of YA, I have to be in the right mood to handle high school stories and I don’t think I was in quite the right mood when I read this. Though, I do feel that Nessa’s personal struggles make her relatable and vulnerable to the reader. The book was at time predictable, but I appreciated a different take on a “new werewolf” story.
Weregirl: Chimera | Read September 3 – September 5, 2018 | 3 Stars (Goodreads)
The 2nd book in the Weregirl trilogy, Chimera, takes us back into the life of Nessa and her newfound status of werewolf in the small town of Tether. If you thought Weregirl was wild, well, Chimera kicks it up a few notches. Which is both good and bad…
In Chimera we get more background into Nessa’s mother and her estranged father. All that background could be a trilogy of its own. Chimera felt at times, slow and then suddenly fast paced, because of all the plot and twists. This book is much heavier on the science side, with more exploration into hybrids and chimeras (whether or not the science holds up is beyond me). I also really enjoyed the relationships between characters in this book and how they evolved.
One of my biggest complaints is the writing style and this may come from the fact that C.D. Bell is actually a group of six authors all writing one book. I find that sometimes Nessa will realize something important, seemingly forget it, and then remember it all over again. Which really throws off the pacing. While I am all for collaboration, this is something that should have been noted and fixed in editing.
All in all, Chimera was a decent second book to this series. I truly enjoy the “evil science corporation” side of this werewolf story and this makes it stand out over more traditional werewolf books. A lot of this book felt like set up for the third book and that made it a little less enjoyable than the first book.
Weregirl: Typhon | Read October 19 – October 22 (ARC read) | 3 Stars (Goodreads)
From start to finish the Weregirl trilogy has been a solid and unique werewolf story. Weregirl: Typhon continues much in the same fashion as the first books: new characters are introduced, the story is intriguing, and I enjoy the science-y edge these books bring to the werewolf genre. However, like the first two books, there are times when the plot slows down and sometimes I want to yell at Nessa A LOT for her choices. Which, I get it, she is a teenager and teenagers are supposed to make stupid choices sometimes. Honestly I want to yell at a lot of teenagers for their choices (I swear, I’m not a bitter old lady AT ALL). Anyways, I do like how the friendship between Nessa and Bree stayed solid throughout the series. This is a great representation of friendship, especially female friendship and that is sometimes quite hard to find in YA books.
At the end of the day, there is nothing particularly groundbreaking in these books. I found them enjoyable enough, but they didn’t make my reread list which is a true sign to me of a great book (at least, a great book in my opinion). I would recommend them to anyone who likes werewolf stories and is looking for a slightly different take on typically werewolf mythology.
Throughout my many years of reading I never knew the importance of book reviews. I figured the reviews left on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. didn’t matter and that the ones that mattered were only by people who did reviews professionally. Now that I know the error of my thinking (Thanks #bookstagram) I am trying to work through reviewing all the books I’ve read in the past. Hence, The Backlist.
Nevernight – Read October-November 2017 – 5 stars!
This book. This damn book. I avoided Nevernight for ages because that cover (specifically the font) just did not work for me. Yes, avoiding a book for the cover is pretty lame but whatever. At the end of the day I was the loser because I kept myself from this gloriously blood soaked book. Mia Corvere is the strong, vicious, yet beautifully vulnerable female main character that this world needs. The world building in this book is…unique. Footnotes, people, there are so many footnotes. At first I thought it was going to drive me crazy but it settled down after a while, so don’t let it deter you! There is great mystery and OMG THE PLOT TWISTS! All the characters are well developed and I found myself liking all of them, even the assholes. This was my first Kristoff book and hot damn was it a good introduction. FYI: if you don’t like lots of metaphors and a wee bit of smut, this might not be the book for you.
Godsgrave – Read December 22-31, 2017 – 5 stars!
This was the last book that I read in 2017 and a way to end the year. Literally finished it at about 11pm on the 31st. AND I STILL AM NOT OVER THAT ENDING. Godsgrave takes what we experienced in Nevernight and dials it all the way up until the damn thing breaks. The banter between Mr. Kindly and Eclipse is one of my favorite things in this book. There are some slower parts to this book, but the action packed parts wholly make up for it. There is a fantastic relationship at the center of this book (which I won’t go into because SPOILERS!) and it was done so darn well. Have I mentioned the ending? BECAUSE OMG. I was devastated when I found out the Darkdawn (book 3) was being delayed, even though I totally understand the reasoning behind it. Godsgrave continues the dark, bloody adventures of our favorite pale daughter.
LIFEL1K3 – Read May 25-25, 2018 – 5 stars!
I read this book in 24 hours. If I wasn’t such a sleep addict I probably would have read it in less. One of my dear friends on Booksta described this book as a fever dream that Jay Kristoff had one night and then turned it into a book. I didn’t know what to expect from this book but it was not this. The cast of characters in this book is so varied and unique. The world building is STELLAR (have you sensed a theme with Kristoff books?). I really feel like I can’t say much about this book without spoiling the fun and surprise of the read. If you want a crazy, fever dream adventure, then this is the one for you.
I’ve also read the Illuminae Files by Jay Kristoff (and the awesome Amie Kaufman) but those are going to get their own post because they are just that good.
I hope you enjoyed this new feature! I’m looking forward to doing more in the near future considering I’ve got a backlist of a couple hundred semi-recently read books I can pull from!